Black Maternal Health

Part: 15

Breastfeeding Not for You? Sisters, Listen Up

Thursday, July 24, 2008

World Breastfeeding Awareness Week is in August and Aisha Qaasim flags the need for stronger cultural support in the United States, particularly for African American moms. Negative attitudes, she says, are making our children sick.

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Editor's Note: The following is a commentary. The opinions expressed are those of the author and not necessarily the views of Women's eNews.

Interrogations Instead of Support

Ironically, the criticism I faced while breastfeeding in public almost always came from other women. When I would complain to friends or family about the ridicule or hostility I received, instead of feeling supported I felt interrogated.

"Did you forget to feed the baby before you went out?" "Didn't you have a blanket to cover yourself with?" I was often asked.

"So what if I did?" I would always respond, feeling like the caricatured rape victim scorned for wearing a miniskirt where both men and booze were present.

America's cultural obsession with the breast as a sexual object undermines the U.S Health and Human Services Department's goal of having 50 percent of infants breastfed exclusively at 6 months of age.

If anything, we should be more disturbed as a society by the sight of breasts filled to bursting with silicone and perched unnaturally on collarbones than the sight of a woman breastfeeding a child.

If we as a society can somehow find a way to tolerate breast augmentation, shouldn't we also be able to support the natural and healthy role of the breast in mother-baby nutrition and bonding?

We need to desensitize our communities away from viewing the breast as either titillating or obscene.

Out and proud, I nursed my daughter at the salon, on the subway, in dozens of restaurants, at the swimming pool and on airplanes. I pumped breast milk in my office while on conference calls. "What is that whooshy sound?" colleagues would sometimes ask, as I smiled to myself. Que viva la leche!

The positive impact of breast milk on the mental and physical development of children is unparalleled. Want a healthy baby? Put the Baby Einstein videos and hand sanitizer away and breastfeed. All the mammals are doing it. And, our children's health depends on it.

Aisha Qaasim is a civil rights attorney and writer based in Redondo Beach, Calif.

Copyright 2009 Women's eNews. The information contained in this Women's eNews report may--with the prior written authorization of Women's eNews--be published, broadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed.

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BLACK MATERNAL HEALTH SERIES

Series Overview

Black Maternal Health: A Legacy and a Future

Part: 19

U.S. Health Bills Show C-Sections Cut Two Ways

Part: 18

California Moms Live in Breastfeeding Haven

Part: 17

Lactation Breaks, Always Commendable, Are Now Law

Part: 16

Dr. Lu Puts 'M' Back in Maternal, Child Care

Part: 15

NYC Targets Black Women for Breastfeeding

Part: 14

Michelle Obama Urged to Speak Out for Breastfeeding

Part: 13

Tonya Lewis Lee Aims to Save Nation's Babies

Part: 12

Black Infant Mortality Points to Moms' Crying Need

Part: 11

Lawmakers Join Push to Close Maternal Health Gaps

Part: 10

Industry, Feds Entice Black Mothers to Bottle Feed

Part: 9

Midwives Fight AMA to Provide Black Maternal Care

Part: 7

Breastfeeding Not for You? Sisters, Listen Up

Part: 6

U.S. Black Maternal Hazards Tied to Social Stress

Part: 5

Black Fathers Opening Up About All That Love

Part: 4

Pregnant? Your Job Is To Take Care of Yourself

Part: 3

Maternity Center Showcases Full-Service Approach

Part: 2

Kindness RX Offered to Pregnant Black Women

Part: 1

Studies Plumb Depths of Black Maternal Health Woes